2 Enter the Giant
I froze for a moment. To be honest, I was suppressing the urge to run off. Now that I knew I was expected, literally invited to have a coffee, I didn't feel like taking it anymore!
“Come on, weirdo,” the coffee craver in me spoke up. “Pour yourself some and sit down. You've been on your feet for hours. Thanks to Mr. Jack Daw.” Well, alright. This was not a day to fight Fate.
As I sat down, caressing the warming mug in my hand, I took a better look at the place. The kitchen and living room formed a single open space. In the wall opposite the entrance there were three doors. One obviously led to the bathroom, the others to at least one bedroom and maybe a closet. The living room was not a common one. It was the studio of a woodcarver. Along the wall with the three doors mentioned, a workbench and shelves served as a showcase displaying an array of carved animals and abstract shapes. Spread across all four walls were masks. Some were animal too, but most of them were human faces, expressing strong emotions. They reminded me of the nightmares I used to have when I went to school. There were some paintings as well. They were cluttered around the fireplace, in front of which lay a thick grayish (once white) rug. There also stood the only armchair of this room.
Another workbench stood at a window, next to the entrance. This workbench was obviously still in use for it's proper function. On and around it lay wood carving tools and wood shavings. In the midst of it flaunted an unfinished mask. I stood up and walked over to the workbench, to see the mask in more detail. The outlines were still pretty rough, but from the shape I judged it was going to be a bird's head.
Actually, it reminded me of the young jackdaw that had made me miss my bus.
I took another sip of my coffee, From the mask's basic lines, my attention shifted to the air above it. In the sunlight gliding over it, tiny particles of dust were dancing. It looked as if the mask's breath had turned into vapor, just as our breath on a cold winter morning. I shivered. “What a creepy place I've gotten into,” I silently muttered to myself. Precisely at that moment a dark shape filled up the entrance. A large broad man, carrying a bulk of chopped wood in his arms. That must be the owner, I realized and stepped back from the workbench like a guilty child. It was more a reflex, than that I was really conscious of any committed 'crime'. Although … suppose the note was meant for a special guest, not just any passer-by. The man was of such formidable build, I didn't enjoy the idea of getting into a quarrel with him.
The 'giant' dropped his load into the crate that stood near the kitchen sink. He shrugged and winked at the half empty mug in my hand “Dunno how's you can drink that with this here temperature. Got something colder for ya right here.” He opened his voluminous hip-bag and produced a can of beer. I spotted a second one still in it. I stifled and shook my head, secretly vowing to finish this mug only to please my host and than I'd move on to the Inti Festival I was supposed to be at. And on no account would I accept a ride from this unshaven creat... person, with twigs and dirt in his uncombed curls.
Had he read my mind? While opening the can for himself, he walk back to the entrance and shut the door. He stayed in front of it, while taking several sips. Then he walked over to me, staying between me and the exit. Another gulp. Then he stared at me with a look that was supposed to be a 'dark melancholy look'. “Admirin' ma work, eh?”
Actually, I was disappointed that such fine things were made by someone so, so... OK, one shouldn't judge a person by his looks. But I could not deny that he was making me feel uncomfortable. I decided not to respond. My tongue often picks up a mind of it's own and manages to utter words causing deeper wounds than a sword ever could.
Instead I tried hard to come up with something positive about this burly bulk with his torn shirt and dirty trousers. Just t osteady my alarmed nerves, but it was a hard job. He smelled as if he had spend the night in a stable. This aroma was getting mixed up with beer as he swallowed more of it from the can. It should be empty by now. “Not used-ter alcohol, eh?”
He winked at me again. I certainly did not want to give him the idea that forcing me to drink some beer would loosen me up. So I remarked that I do consume alcohol, but never before lunch. There was nothing funny about it, but he roared with laughter. “You call me Elmer.” This non sequitur was uttered as soon as his 'fit' was over. Meanwhile he moved closer, trying to put his arm around me.
“Why are ya here, Missy? And how come yer drinkin' ma coffee without waitin' fer me?” My eyes swerved over to the note, under the thermos. Hadn't he written the note? Then who had? My uncertainty could evidently be read from my face. He bent over, his hazel eyes scrutinizing me. “Yer not afraid o' me, are ya?” Only now I saw how bloodshot his eyes were. This guy hadn't been sober from the start. My mental alarm rose in volume. “Get out of here! Now!” I put down my mug on the workbench, trying to slide past Elmer. But he got hold of my shirt. “You ain't leavin' me now. Let's have some fun first.” He dropped the can so he had his other hand free. Tried to stroke my face with it. My heart started to pounce hard, as if breaking open my chest. And not for joy. I felt like throwing up at the thought of his touch. With one hand I warded off his 'caressing' hand, with the other I tried to pull away his hand holding my shirt. Useless, his hands were like sledgehammers. My opponent giggled at my futile attempt. Why hadn't I ever taken better care of my physical condition?
As a kid I used to pick fights with boys1 older than me (and I was small for my age). But I quit the habit at secondary school, when the boys became more muscular than the girls. “Come on,” the pugnacious child in me urged me on. “You're sober, he's not. Play with his center of gravity.”
I grabbed his upper arms as sudden as I could (I'm horribly phlegmatic) and placed my right leg after his legs, pushing him backwards. He crashed down, but as with most drunkards, his fall didn't hurt him. And he hadn't let go of me. I ended up lying on my right side, diagonally over his chest. His odor made my nose sting. Elmer got over his surprise, cursed and came up, trying to make us switch places: him on top of me. The one position I was trying to prevent. I tried to yank myself free from his iron grip around my arms, at the same time trying to suppress an attack of panic.
1 I'd never pick a fight with a girl. Because most of them fight mean, they scratch and bite. With only a brother around, I was used to stumping and wrestling.